Exploring the world of Dinosaurs while implementing Montessori techniques is like taking a time machine back to an amazing and mysterious past when gigantic creatures roamed the Earth. Dinosaurs have fascinated scientists and children since the discovery of their remains, or fossils, and serve as a reminder of their once-dominant existence.
The fun and educational children’s activities in this article will allow your child to play paleontologist and learn about these fascinating beasts we call dinosaurs. By the end, they will be much the wiser and may even have their future as dino hunters laid out before them.
As with all Montessori-inspired lessons, this guide is full of activities that engage the child’s curiosity, encourage independence and provide hands-on learning opportunities. Be prepared to get dirty and creative with this lesson plan and make sure to reference it as you go. Space it over several days as there are many activities and some can take over an hour to complete.
A brief history of dinos
Dinosaurs, which means terrible lizard, were reptiles who lived millions of years ago, well before the dawn of man. They ruled the entire planet for about 200 million years and came in all shapes and sizes, from the gargantuan Apatosaurus, which was as big as a house, to the Sinornithosaurus, which was the size of a cat. They were quite a diverse species.
Like animals of today, dinos had a variety of diets. Some were carnivores or meat-eaters like the T-Rex, some were herbivores or plant eaters like the Iguanodon, and others were omnivores or plant and meat-eaters. Scientists are able to distinguish this by the type of mouth or teeth which the dinos used to eat with.
Why they went extinct
Exactly why the dinosaurs died out is a scientific mystery. Some theories postulate that they were surpassed by mammals that took over the food chain, while other evidence points to a massive global chain of volcanic eruptions that spewed poisonous gases and ash into the atmosphere killing off much of their food supply.
But the most recently discovered evidence theorizes that a giant asteroid or comet struck the Earth in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, which caused the planet to be covered by ash for several years and blocked out the sun. The absence of sunlight led to three-quarters of all living species to go extinct at the time, about 65 million years ago.
Source: National Geographic
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The books you choose to read to your child depends on their age. We started out with Hello World! Dinosaurs with our 3-year-old. It has wonderful illustrations, helps to pronounce the names and some fun facts geared towards the age of your child.
For older kids, 4 to 8, the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs is a great choice. The illustrations are very realistic and beautiful. The information and fun facts go more in-depth and they even have interesting questions for the kids to chew on.
This Encyclopedia on dinosaurs is very interactive and has amazing facts and illustrations throughout. It has to most realistic images of the dinos with fun pop-ups and moving parts. It will keep your kids entertained for hours!
The majority of these activities are for preschool and kindergarten kids but a few are for the older kids, up to age 9 to 12. They need to know how to read and write about the new information they are learning. The recommended ages of the kids are posted before each activity.
Dino matching (2 – 6 yo)
With the Montessori cards, we match the figures from the Boley Dinos or our excavated dino fossils to the dino cards. You can expand on this with categories: small, big, gigantic, carnivorous, herbivore, and feathered. Have the kids group the cards and the figures then match them up.
Dino identification (5 – 12 yo)
Working with 3 part Montessori cards and info cards is the best way to identify the dinos that they will encounter in the subsequent activities. If you’re not familiar with the process of using 3 part cards have a look at this article first.
The only difference with the info cards is that we use them once the 3 part cards have been studied and memorized. Just be sure to stick to a reasonable number of cards depending on your child’s age. We don’t want to bombard them with too many dinos at once.
Dino excavation game (3 – 9 yo)
This should be done with a little explanation of paleontology; what a paleontologist does, how they study dinos, what a fossil is and where we find them (all over the world). Then introduce the activity. We bought this fun excavation game on Amazon and it’s a great introduction to how paleontologists find and work with fossils.
Once the dinos or excavated you can use the cards and match them to the dino they think it is most similar to.
Make dino fossils (3 – 9 yo)
These fossils are made from salt dough. Take the skeletons from the excavation game and make imprints in the dough. Also, make some that look like footprints. If you really want to get big with the footprints, check out the pics below for inspiration and have the kids compare their feet with the old dinos.
Recipe for salt dough:
Ingredients: Just add 1 cup salt, 1 cup flour, and 1/2 cup water, let dry overnight, paint with watered down brown paint or mix cinnamon in the dough for effects.
Fossil search (3 – 9 yo)
This is a fun, outdoor activity for the kids to get dirty. After making the fossils, hide them and the footprints in some dirt in your backyard or in a dirt lot by your house. Cordon off an area in the dirt with some twine and wooden stakes to make it look like an archeological dig. Give them some digging tools and brushes and have them go looking for them.
You could make it a contest to see who finds the most fossils. Add even more challenge by requiring them to identify the fossils with their info cards as they find them.
Field trip (3 – 12 yo)
Take a trip to the natural history museum. This is the closest they’ll ever get to seeing a ‘real’ dinosaur, just to give them a reference to the sheer magnitude of these amazing creatures. Have them practice naming the dinos that they learned from the books and 3 part cards.
Dino sensory jar (3 – 9 yo)
This is a fun DIY activity for dino-loving kids who need some challenge. It is a great hand-eye coordination activity that will keep them occupied for eons and can even have a calming effect on them. Here’s the link to the article and video on how to make it.
DIY dino eggs crafts
This is a wonderful video about making very color dinosaur eggs out of ice. They’re perfect for dino birthday parties or just to have fun with your dino-loving kid!
There are countless other amazing dino activities on the internet and I hope you can enjoy the ones I have described in this article. But if your kids are still begging for more, this website has the best collection that I have found. Check it out: Handsonaswegrow.com